Putting farmers’ prosperity at the heart of food systems transformation

Supporting small farmers to better access regional or global markets for their products, generating higher incomes, and ensuring farmers can benefit from emerging nature and climate solutions are important steps to building resilience, strengthening food security, improving livelihoods and tackling poverty.

    The challenge

    Rural communities in Low Income Countries generating 30% of their country’s GDP have fallen from 88% to 69% of the population since 1960. Over half of the global population now live in urban areas and the world’s rural population is expected to decline by a further 0.6 billion by 2050. Growing and changing demands for agricultural products from rising urban populations to a declining agricultural workforce represent a risk to the current agricultural system. The additional impact of projected growth in automation, mechanization and digitization are exacerbating the uncertainties and concerns. At the same time, the global move towards more regenerative practices opens up an array of possible financial contributions to farmers and farm workers. However, today farmers do not accrue significant benefits from engaging in emerging climate and nature solutions – such as carbon markets – which can support companies on their road to net-zero.

    The business case

    A functioning agricultural sector is necessary to boost rural development and create pathways out of poverty for smallholder farmers. Poverty reduction efforts can not only contribute to making farmers, and thus supply chains, more resilient to shocks, but also to reduce reputational risk, strengthen business relationships and meet rising investor expectations. For companies in high-emitting industries and companies whose Scope 3 emissions derive mostly from their value chains – as in the case for businesses producing consumer goods – engaging in voluntary carbon markets and other nature- and climate-based solutions to offset unabated emissions is an imperative. To be able to implement these solutions at the scale needed to achieve their net-zero pledges, companies must also ensure net benefits of these solutions for farmers, thus creating a smallholder business case.

    The solution

    The Equitable Livelihoods project within WBCSD’s Food & Agricultura Pathway will develop a conceptual framework to outline key trends, sector challenges and new solutions to ensure that farmers benefit from the ever-changing agricultural system in which agribusiness operate. Using case studies drawing from two important staple crops – rice and maize – in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the conceptual roadmap will help to create the thought leadership which is urgently needed to mobilize action towards a fairer share of value across the value chain, especially towards farmers. Working with the Equity Imperative team within WBCSD, Equitable Livelihoods will also embed farmer prosperity into nature and climate discourse, solutions, and standards. 

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